- The 2020 Concacaf Champions League kicks off on 18 February
- Record champions Club America return to the competition
- Carlos Vela and newcomers LAFC are out to flip the script
The 2020 Concacaf Champions League gets under way this week, and one thing is certain: There will be no repeat champion. Monterrey, the region’s holders and third-place finishers at the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2019™, did not qualify for the competition this time around.
Though Rayados lifted North America’s top club trophy four times in the previous decade, this year’s tournament still promises plenty of firepower. Seven-time winners Club America are back after missing out entirely a year ago, and 2019 runners-up Tigres have earned another shot at their first continental crown. Enner Valencia sparked another deep run for Ricardo Ferritti’s side a year ago with seven goals, the most by any player in the competition.
Meanwhile, there’s one question on the minds of every non-Mexican club: Will this be the year someone can usurp the Liga MX hegemony? Saprissa were the last to do it back in 2005. Major League Soccer (MLS) sides Real Salt Lake, Montreal Impact and Toronto came closest as finalists in 2011, 2015 and 2018, respectively.
Here’s who will battle for a spot at the FIFA Club World Cup this year:
- Club America, Cruz Azul, Leon, Tigres
- Atlanta United, LAFC, New York City FC, Seattle Sounders
- Montreal Impact
- Portmore United
- San Carlos, Saprissa
- Motagua, Olimpia
Players to watch
Carlos Vela | LAFC
He just put together what was, at least statistically, the most dominant offensive season in MLS history. Named 2019 MLS MVP, the left-footed Mexican scored a league record 34 goals in 31 appearances and added 15 assists as LAFC set a league record for most regular season points (72). Can the one-time Chivas starlet maintain his scintillating form for the Champions League debutants?
Andre-Pierre Gignac | Tigres
At 34 years old, the Tigres all-time leading goalscorer continues to terrorise defences. His ten goals in the 2019 Apertura were tied for the second most in Liga MX. The Frenchman is no stranger to spectacular goals in Champions League play, either; he netted a gorgeous scissor kick in the second leg of last year’s final to pull his side level before they fell in the away encounter. Continental runners-up three of the last four years, Gignac may be the man to finally push his side over the line.
Bojan Krkic | Montreal Impact
The journeyman winger could thrive in Canada now that he’s reunited with former Barcelona team-mate Thierry Henry, who has taken over as Impact head coach. Montreal have not found the back of the net in three straight pre-season games, but Bojan is optimistic that with Henry’s system, the goals will come when they count: “If you see the games we played, we create chances,” he told MLSsoccer.com.
David Guzman | Saprissa
Saprissa were the last team from outside Mexico to be crowned continental kings when they defeated Pumas in the final 15 years ago. If they’re to do it again, El Monstruo Morado will count on Costa Rica international David Guzman to stymie some of the continent’s most formidable attackers. The defensive midfielder suited up for Portland Timbers and Columbus Crew in MLS from 2017-19, so he’ll know what he’s up against when Saprissa host Montreal on 19 February to open their campaign.